Sunday, January 20, 2019

ChezCindy: Simple Mashed Potatoes

Are mashed potatoes really so simple?  I think there is technique, and preferences, to making them.  But nothing too terribly complicated.  My husband tells a story of when he was a small boy at a holiday dinner with extended family.  He made the innocent comment that he likes is mother's mashed potatoes better than his aunt's because his mom's have no lumps.  Imagine the embarrassment at that holiday table.

I generally prefer to make mashed potatoes using Yukon Gold potatoes.  They have a creamy yellow flesh and when fully cooked, the flesh mashes easily into a lump-free texture.  I use cream, butter, kosher salt and a bit of white pepper.  A tip to consider is to always heat the cream, or milk, before adding it to the cooked potatoes.  Reason being is that keeping the potatoes hot during the mashing process is key to avoiding lumps.  Cold cream will bring down the temperature of the potatoes.  I also have the butter very soft so that it melts in quickly when added to the hot potatoes.  Or you can melt the butter too.  Salt is a must for  potatoes as they are bland without it.  My taste preference is to use white pepper, but only a pinch.  Others use black pepper, which is fine if you don't mind seeing the bits of black against the creamy pale pallet of potatoes.

Mashed potatoes take well to adding other culinary friends to change up the flavor.  I make mustard mashed potatoes to serve with mustard brown sugar salmon. recipe here  Try adding other compound butters to mashed potatoes to serve with grilled steak.  recipe here

My simple mashed potatoes recipe is below.  Follow it as is or change it up by boiling both Yukon Golds and sweet potatoes, mashing them together for a mildly sweet blend.  Add whole garlic cloves, boiling and mashing together, for a spicy kick.  Other combinations could be potatoes and celery root, or rutabaga.  Simple mashed potatoes are just the beginning.

Chez Cindy Simple Mashed Potatoes
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons kosher salt
pinch white pepper

Peel the potatoes; cut each potato into 2-3 inch pieces.  Place the potatoes into a large deep pan; fill the pan with cold water to cover 1-inch above the potatoes.  Place the pan on the stove top over medium-high heat.  Place the lid on the pan, slightly askew.  Do not place the lid on fully or the potatoes will boil over.  Boil for 20-25 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.  Remove from heat and drain the potatoes into a colander strainer.  In a small pan over medium heat, add the cream and butter to warm just until the butter melts.  Set aside.  Using a potato ricer, press the drained potatoes, a few pieces at a time through the ricer, directly into the pan they were cooked in.  Add the salt and pepper, and half of the cream/butter.  Using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir the potatoes to combine.  Add more cream/butter until you reach a creamy smooth texture.  Taste for seasoning.  Serve hot.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

ChezCindy: Chicken Milanese with Herbed Salad

January cooking often takes on themes whether it be "clean" or healthy cooking, cold-weather winter cooking to chase away the chill, or to avoid cooking altogether.  My focus in January, and really anytime of the year, is to focus on flavor.

January might be a good time to expand your taste buds by adding fresh herbs to the food you are preparing.  In the summer, I have my garden full of herbs ready to snip and add to my cooking.  Fortunately, fresh herbs are available year-round in most grocery stores.  Lately, I have been adding mint to more of my foods.  It livens up whatever you are eating from chicken to cauliflower or even ice cream.  The key is to add just a little at first, have a taste, and then decide if more is needed.  Mint packs a powerful punch of flavor so start slowly.

I recently made Chicken Milanese for dinner, which is simply a breaded chicken cutlet, served with salad greens and a few curls of Parmesan cheese.  I often forget to add fresh herbs to my salad, but when I remember to do so, I am always pleased with the results.  Because I am on my winter fresh herbs kick, I had mint, basil and parsley in the fridge.  I used all three in the salad.  The mint sparked the salad with a refreshing zip to the palette.  Mint might not be included on a traditional plate of Chicken Milanese, but herbs such as basil and parsley certainly would.  I encourage you to give it a try.

Chicken Milanese
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
salt and pepper for seasoning

1 cup canola oil for cooking the chicken

To make the chicken:  Place one chicken breast between to sheets of plastic wrap.  Using the flat side of a meat mallet, gently pound out the chicken until it is an even thinness of roughly 1/2-inch.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Set up a dredging station with three low-sided bowls, one for each of the flour, egg, and bread crumbs.  Add salt and pepper to the flour and bread crumb; lightly scramble the egg.  Starting with the flour first, lightly coat the chicken breast with flour, shaking off the excess.  Then dip into the egg to evenly coat.  Lastly, dip into the bread crumbs to thoroughly and evenly coat the chicken.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Working with a large non-stick skillet, add enough oil to coat the bottom about 1/4 inch.  Heat the oil until it shimmers as the oil needs to be hot before adding the coated chicken breasts.  If your pan is large enough to hold 2 cutlets, carefully add the coated chicken one at a time to the hot oil.  Cook on this first side until golden brown, roughly 3-5 minutes.  Cooking time will depend on how thinly you have pounded the chicken.  It is desirable to have this first side deeply golden brown as this is the plate presentation side.  Once you have peeked to see the underside of the chicken and it is nicely browned, carefully using tongs, turn each chicken cutlet over to finish cooking on side two.  When side two is browned, transfer each cutlet to a large tray lined with paper towels.  Sprinkle each cutlet with a bit of kosher or sea salt while hot from the pan.

Serve with an herbed green salad tossed with vinaigrette dressing.  Drizzle additional vinaigrette over the chicken.  Shave a few Parmesan curls over the top.

Herbed Salad
2 cups mixed salad greens
3 tablespoons mixed herbs, mint, parsley and basil
cherry tomatoes, halved
vinaigrette to coat lightly,  recipe here

Combine the salad greens, herbs, and cherry tomato halves into a medium bowl.  Add vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

Recipe serves 2